How quickly times can change. Just six months ago the Tories and capitalism seemed in the ascendancy, socialism was for the history books and Jeremy Corbyn was a fly to be swatted at will. Now, Matthew Elliott, a senior fellow of the Legatum Institute, says “the capitalism brand is in crisis”. The free market think tank’s detailed research shows that on almost every issue people tend to favour non- free market ideals. They want to see the pay of CEOS capped and companies strive to be more socially responsible. Around three-quarters of those polled want privatised water, electricity and gas companies to revert to public ownership. Even among Tory voters, two-thirds now support Corbyn’s proposal to re-nationalise the railways. Nor is it just young people who are disillusioned.
It is unsurprising that capitalism should be unpopular among those who don’t have any capital. But the research suggests the over-35s are more – not less – likely to say capitalism is greedy and corrupt. This radical shift in opinion suggests that the Tories, to quote the columnist Iain Martin, are “somewhat stuffed”. Conservative MPS are starting to worry that their party’s problem “is not a blip” but has become “existential”. Under Theresa May, their party really does seem to be seen as the nasty party. Perhaps they can change this – but to have any hope of doing so they will need fresh faces and bold new policies. At the moment, as the Legatum research confirms, Corbyn is much more in tune with the public mood than May.